Cookbook Reviews

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Helen's Lethal Margaritas

OK...I will cop to it. This isn't the best picture. This is one margarita that didn't want to photograph. It was really irritating to me.  I needed to get it done, so I took the best of them and ran with it. Sorry for it being a tad blurry!

Now, I will cop to something else. I am a sucker for books with recipes in them. Normally, I can't stand the story, but I have found some really rock it with recipes. Many have made it to The P&G!

When I saw that Sherryl Woods co-authored a cookbook,The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook, based off her series, I knew I had to review it. Another thing that I must cop to is that I have never read a Sherryl Wood's book, but if her books are as great as the numerous recipes I have made out of this great book, including drink recipes, I might just have to wander in there. One of those recipes was Helen's Lethal Margaritas.

It was time to start to prepare for Cinco de Mayo for The P&G and Bette Lee Crosby's Midweek Mixers and I remembered this drink. I am not a fan of the frozen margarita, but I had given Bette and my readers numerous other margarita recipes, so I figured it was time for me to buck up and get to a frozen one. I liked this recipe because it used no margarita mix, but was still incredibly simple to make. Plus, it had me at agave nectar!

One thing I did notice in serving it is that these were thick. They were really a slush. As a result, where we would normally drink two margaritas with our meal, one of these was sufficient (and all we could really get through).

As to be expected, I changed the recipe just a very tiny bit. I noticed as published, it had a very strong tequila flavor to it. I am not a fan of that, so I increased the limeade and ice to support it. No biggie. If you like strong flavors go with the parenthesis amount!

Want either a strawberry or mango margarita? Simply switch out a 12 oz bag of the frozen fruit for 2 cups of ice! Yummers!

So, here we go!:


10 oz frozen limeade, thawed (6 oz)
3/4 cup BLANCO tequila (the cheap stuff is fine)
1/4 cup triple sec
2 T. agave nectar
5 cups ice (4 cups)


1) Place all ingredients in a blender and let it go!

2) Pour into salt rimmed margarita glasses and garnish with lime wedge!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bread Machine Focaccia Bread


My family LOVES this recipe. I love it not only for its taste, but for the simplicity of this homemade bread. It starts off in your bread maker with just a couple of ingredients and finishes baking in your oven. I would compare this to ANY commercially prepared Focaccia bread.

The recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but I use dried in the winter because we don't use enough fresh rosemary before it goes bad. When my rosemary is up in my herb garden, I switch over to the fresh. I will be honest, there really isn't a huge difference.

So, here we go!:



1 cup luke warm water
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
2 t. jarred chopped garlic
1 T. Fresh rosemary or 1/2 T. dried rosemary
3 cups bread flour
1.5 t. jarred yeast


2 T. olive oil
1/2 T. coarse salt, such as kosher or sea
1/2 T. dried rosemary
Parmesan cheese


1) Very important! Place the BREAD ingredients in the bread maker pan in the order given.

2) Place on dough cycle and let cycle.

3) Remove from pan when complete and knead with small amount of bread flour until smooth. I will then roll out and place in a 9x13 pan.

4) Spread the olive oil over the dough and top with the other TOPPING ingredients.

5) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes prior to serving.

Italian Tomato Cheese Tortellini Soup

I love this simple, meatless crock pot recipe. It has a whole 5 ingredients and cooks for the day, so throw it in the crock pot on low. I can't even remember when or where I found this recipe, but I have it memorized at this point. Shockingly, the little cheese tortellinis are perfect even after cooking all day. It is frequently on my menu for Meatless Mondays. I partner it with my Focaccia bread machine bread. 

While it is officially called THE BEST CROCK POT MEAL EVER, that just didn't work for me. It didn't describe anything to me. I changed it to Italian Tomato Cheese Tortellini soup, which I feel is a perfect description.

So, here we go!:


4 cups vegetable broth
4 handfuls baby spinach
2 cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, undrained
8 oz block cream cheese
9 oz bag cheese tortellini


1) Place all ingredients in a 4 qt crock pot and turn to low.

2) Cook for 6 hours. I have had it cook for 8 hours with no problems.

3) Garnish with Parmesan cheese and Italian bread.